Best Collaboration in Arts & Culture

Winner - Dr Matt Brennan, 'The Cost of Music'

Cost of Music artcover 'The Cost of Music' is a collaboration between music academics, artisan craftworkers, a filmmaker, a record label, and the environmental sustainability charity Creative Carbon Scotland. The project significantly enhanced public understanding of the changing economic and environmental costs of recorded music through a series of innovative public engagement initiatives. 

Dr Matt Brennan from the School of Culture & Creative Arts worked in collaboration with Professor Kyle Devine from the University of Olso, to demonstrate how the economic costs of recorded music consumption have steadily fallen in recent decades while its carbon emissions costs have soared. 

The research, funded in part by the Arts and Humanmities Reseach Council (AHRC), compared the changing economic and environmental costs of recorded music across formats and over history from the time of the Edison wax cylinder up to the current era of streaming from the cloud.  

Matt wrote and recorded an album of original music as a means to cross-publicise and maximise press coverage of his collaborative research findings. He engaged in a deep and sustained collaboration with both academic partners (electronics engineer Peter Reid and metalworker Mark Reynolds at University of Edinburgh) and non-academic partners (London-based phonography artist Aleks Kolkowski, Sheffield-based artisan Duncan Miller, Glasgow-based record label Chemikal Underground, and the environmental charity Creative Carbon Scotland) to release the album in the form of an interactive sculpture called the SCIFIHIFI.   

Matt devised the release and distribution strategy for the album with Chemikal Underground and collaborated with Creative Carbon Scotland to produce and host the live launch event in April 2019.  The album was released on all major digital streaming platforms (Spotify, Apple Music, etc.) via Chemikal Underground Records on 5 April 2019, accompanied by a press release and short essay for the  Conversation website outlining the key findings of 'The Cost of Music'  project. 

The impact of the launch was much greater than expected. Within a few days Brennan and Devine’s Conversation essay had been read more than 40,000 times, republished by media ranging from the Weather Network to Newsweek, and translated into Spanish, Japanese, and Indonesian. The press release was also picked up by the ABC, the BBC, the CBC, Rolling Stone, Pitchfork, and Billboard. 

Matt worked with filmmaker Graeme O’Hara to produce four short films – including one documenting the full two-year journey of the project  which have accumulated over 25,000 views across Twitter, Facebook and YouTube. 

Matt and his collaborators have been recognised for their innovative approach to research communications and engagement with the public. 

The Cost of Music

Dr Matt Brennan talks about working in collaboration to enhance public understanding of the changing economic and environmental costs of recorded music and using innovative approaches to release a music album.